White keeping his eye on the prize

Jayhawk Illustrated Extra
Posted Dec 9, 2011


Andrew White's decision to commit to the University of Kansas wasn't an easy one - this, the elite small forward freely admits. However, now that his college decision is settled and the recruiting process behind him, he hasn't allowed himself to grow complacent. Instead, he's turned his gaze to a new goal.

On the afternoon of Friday, Dec. 2, Andrew White's phone chimed.

Looking down, he saw a text message waiting from his head coach at Charlottesville (VA) The Miller School, Scott Willard. He opened it, and was puzzled by its contents.

"Congrats!" Willard's message read. "I saw the video."

White hurriedly clacked out a response.

"What video?"

"The one of the commitment," Willard replied. "It's already up."

Almost instantly, White's phone began blowing up with friends and family offering congratulations of their own. Before long, the news was on Facebook. Then on Twitter. And once it hit Twitter...well...half the free world heard the news.

Andrew White was going to be a Kansas Jayhawk.

Suffice to say, this was not the way his announcement was supposed to play out. As one of the most heavily-pursued prospects in the Class of 2012, his recruitment was the subject of months of scrutiny. That White took the time to do things the right way, gathering as much information as possible, only fueled the fires of speculation on message boards and social media outlets.

White heard the rumors. New reports seemed to emerge daily, each claiming a new frontrunner. It was N.C. State. No, hometown Richmond was the frontrunner. He loved his official visit to Kansas, but fell in love at Texas and Virginia Tech was making a strong push.

As the final deadline of the November early signing period approached, the rumor mill reached a fever pitch. Now he was going to sign a backdated National Letter of Intent (Is that even possible?) and announce after the Nov. 15 deadline, when he could make sure his family was able to be in attendance.

White heard it all, and just shook his head.

"I heard a lot of the speculation, especially going on during that time of the early signing period," he said. "I know Twitter and things like that are big. I just kind of ignored any speculation and tried to continue my process the way I was comfortable with."

Want a little bit of truth? White announced for Kansas on Friday, Dec. 2, but the decision was made in his mind less than 24 hours before the word leaked out.

Once he was firm in his choice, White wanted to get the ball moving as quickly as possible. Earlier that week, he set the Friday deadline for himself and made plans with NBC Channel 12 in Richmond, Va. to film a segment, during which he would make his announcement.

The segment was to air at approximately 6 p.m. that evening, right as he and his teammates were scheduled to tip off versus Woodberry Forest (VA) High – and shortly after he'd made his decision public prior to the game.

However, a mishap saw the segment posted to the station's Web site early Friday afternoon, and White was left with no choice but to roll with it. He immediately called the Kansas coaches, who were understandably pumped, and met with a few reporters prior to the game.

"They were excited," White said, of the Kansas staff. "(Head Coach) Bill Self always seems to have a lot of energy. I think he was in a meeting and they called him out."

But what caused him to land on the Jayhawks, after so much discussion – typically with his parents – introspection and research?

It was a complicated process. White was offered by the Kansas staff in late August, after they kept close tabs on him throughout the summer. Lead recruiter Joe Dooley boasted an outstanding relationship with Willard, and his straightforward manner impressed the athletic wing.

As the offers continued to roll in, White settled on a handful of official visits. First on the list was a trip to Kansas, during the weekend of Sep. 24 and the program's star-studded 'Legends of the Phog' alumni event.

He set foot on the Lawrence, Kan. campus wanting to get a clearer picture of what it was like to live the life of a Kansas basketball player, and left 48 hours later with that mission accomplished.

"At the end of the day, they're normal guys," he told Phog.net in a Sept. 27 interview. "Everybody thinks so much of Kansas, but they're normal people. They work so hard at it. I saw them lift weights and I saw the way they take care of themselves. And it kind of explains what they do on the court."

Though fans - and undoubtedly, the coaching staff - were hoping for a commitment following the trip, White stuck to his plans. In rapid succession he took three additional official visits, to Louisville, Texas and West Virginia.

It was important to him that he analyze every program on equal footing, which meant eliminating external factors. So he let the sight and feel of a packed house at Allen Fieldhouse during his visit fade, so as not to influence his decision.

White was focused on answering one question: Which program offered the best opportunity for him to develop and grow as a player?

Ultimately, the answer was clad in Crimson and Blue.

"I think my opportunity to compete for minutes as a freshman at such an established program was big for me," White said. "I really like the fact that they have the ability to win their conference championship and a national championship every year."

Still, making the decision was brutally tough. With so much family support close to home, it would have been easier - perhaps provided a little more comfort - to choose one of the regional schools in it until the end such as Richmond, Virginia Tech, N.C. State, Georgetown or George Mason. Cincinnati was also among those in the mix.

But White looks at the distance factor as another opportunity for growth.

"It would have been a bigger advantage (for Kansas), being close to home," he said. "But it's a sacrifice. And you have to sacrifice some things to get where you want to be. To be the best player I can be, I feel I have to go away from home."

White provides an immediate boost to a backcourt which will be replacing, at a minimum, seniors Tyshawn Taylor and Conner Teahan from the rotation. With his length, athleticism and long-range shot, it's not hard to see him as a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.

Here's what Scout.com national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels had to say about him, shortly following his commitment:

"I think Kansas is getting a guy that can really fill a scoring role on the perimeter. He's a fantastic catch-and-shoot guy with very good range and a pretty quick trigger. At his size, White doesn't have much of an issue getting his shot off in that type of situation. He's also a quality athlete that leaps particularly well. I think he defends his position well and is a quality rebounder."

It's probably not tough for Kansas fans to read that evaluation, and make the leap to former stars such as Xavier Henry and Brandon Rush.

White acknowledges the similarities, but realizes he has a long way to go to get to that level. For now, he's eager for the competition with current players such as Elijah Johnson, Ben McLemore and Travis Releford for playing time.

It's not so much about starting, White said. It's about fighting his way into a spot in the rotation.

"If I could get a decent amount of minutes in that lineup, I'll be happy," he explained. "Starting would be great - that's something to shoot for. But just being able to play, and help that team and help those upper-classmen go out the right way (is what's important)."

For most, having a decision of this magnitude behind them would be the source of a great deal of relief. But for White, it's more about a shift in focus. The pressure of making a decision is gone, replaced by the pressure to make sure he's the best player he can be before he officially enrolls at Kansas.

Still, he allows some excitement to creep in among the stoicism from time to time. After all, in his words Lawrence Kan. is basketball. It's a big stage, arguably the biggest in the sport, providing a world of possibility for his future.

But only if he puts in the work.

"I'm focusing," White said. "So I can enjoy being a Jayhawk when that day comes."

Kansas fans can hardly wait.



Related Stories
Andrew White commits to Kansas
 -by Phog.net  Dec 2, 2011
White makes his choice
 -by ScoutHoops.com  Dec 2, 2011
Where is Andrew White headed?
 -by Phog.net  Dec 2, 2011

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